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Whanau support showcased

A new community expo will showcase the services available to support Wairarapa families through perinatal mental ill health. PHOTO/STOCK.ADOBE.COM

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
[email protected]

The old adage is true: it takes a village to raise a child.

Next week, Wairarapa’s own village will be the focus of a new community event: raising awareness of perinatal mental health and the services available for families as they navigate the precious and overwhelming first years of the children’s lives.

To mark Perinatal Mental Health Awareness Week, support organisations The Ruth Project Wairarapa, Yellow Brick Road, Pepe Ora, and Smoke Free Wairarapa have joined forces to organise a community expo, to be held in Masterton on May 5.

Stallholders at the expo include a range of groups and services which can wrap around Wairarapa whanau “on their perinatal mental health journey”: offering everything from counselling, to childcare, to peer support, to an extra pair of hands in the garden.

Perinatal Mental Health Awareness Week is dedicated to starting conversations about mental distress during pregnancy and after the birth of a child.

An estimated 12 to 18 per cent of New Zealand mothers and 10 per cent of fathers develop depression, anxiety or other mental health issues during the perinatal period.

Abby Hollingsworth, director of operations for The Ruth Project – a charitable organisation offering practical assistance to whanau experiencing perinatal mental distress – said she was inspired to organise the expo after meeting parents who struggled to stay afloat “between their health appointments”.

The purpose of the expo, she said, was to showcase the services which can support parents before their mental heath reaches crisis point – whether that’s a mothers’ coffee morning, a playgroup, or somewhere they can find a creative outlet.

“It’s an opportunity to show people what’s available for families on this journey,” Hollingsworth said.

“A big part of reducing perinatal mental distress is preventative care: to meet parents at the very start before they find things hard, and well before they reach that point of absolute despair

“It’s important that families know they have networks, a community, and a village they can reach out to – and they don’t have to struggle through alone.”

Services which have so far registered for the expo include Whaiora, Plunket, Tekau Ma Iwa, Te Awhina Cameron Community House, Hokai Tahi, and the Wairarapa Parents Centre.

Also coming on board are organisations which can provide hands-on support to whanau – for example, with meal preparation and housework – as well as social groups and creative projects.

These include a group dedicated to traditional raranga (flax weaving) and The Divine River – which runs workshops on sewing re-useable period products – who will hold demonstrations at the expo.

“Divine River, for example, can be something parents can get involved in,” Hollingsworth said.

“It means they’re not sitting at home, feeling lonely – they can get out of the house, do something for themselves, and find a sense of purpose [outside of family],” Hollingsworth said.

Hollingsworth said more stallholders are welcome to register for the event – and she is hopeful to hear from services who can offer support specifically to fathers.

She also hoped to reach out to businesses ahead of the expo – so they can be aware of services they can recommend to employees who are new parents.

The event is free, both for stallholders and the public.

The expo will be held on Thursday, May 5, at the Trust House Recreation Centre, from 10am to 2pm. To book a stall, email [email protected]

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